UT Conference Studies Impact of the Atomic Age

KNOXVILLE — To mark the 60 years that have passed since America entered the nuclear age, the University of Tennessee is bringing together some of the nation-s foremost historians, scholars, and scientists to discuss the impact of the atomic bomb on American society, as well as international relations.

UT’s Center for the Study of War and Society will host “The Atomic Bomb and American Society” July 15-17 at the Double Tree Hotel in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Trinity Test, July 16, 1945. Trinity was the first successful test of an atomic bomb.

This conference will coincide with the 60th anniversary of the first nuclear explosion in history. On July 16, 1945, scientists with the Manhattan Project detonated the first atomic bomb in Alamogordo, New Mexico.

Paul Boyer, professor emeritus of the University of Wisconsin and one of the nation’s leading cultural historians, will explore nuclear themes in American culture during his keynote address at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, July 15. Boyer is author of “By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age” and “Fallout: A Historian Reflects on America’s Half-Century Encounter with Nuclear Weapons.”

David Rosenberg is a senior professor at the U.S. Naval War College and an expert in 20th century military and naval history, national security, and international affairs. He will deliver “In Search of Nuclear Reality” at a 6:30 p.m. dinner on Saturday, July 16. Rosenberg is also a captain in the Selected Reserve of the U.S. Navy and commands the largest unit in the Naval Reserve Intelligence Command.

Kurt Piehler, UT associate professor of history and director of the Center for the Study of War and Society, said the events will explore American fear of nuclear war, the impact of public opinion on nuclear weapons development, and other themes that live on in the threat of weapons of mass destruction and international terrorism.

“We need to have a better understanding of why the atomic bomb was developed and the impact this weapon had on the course of the Second World War and the Cold War that followed,” said Piehler. “This is an especially propitious time to assess the impact of the atomic bomb on American society. It has now been over 15 years since the Cold War ended and it is possible to offer a more complex assessment of how atomic weapons influenced the course of this conflict. This conference will highlight the far reaching impact on the bomb not only American military strategy, but also on American politics and culture.”

Among other key events are:

“Supporting the Bomb,” a panel discussion led by moderator U.S. Navy Captain Rosemary Mariner, a visiting fellow at UT’s Center for the Study of War and Society, and the first woman to command a naval aviation unit.
9 a.m. – 11 a.m. Friday, July 15.

“Learning about the Bomb,” a panel discussion moderated by Russell Olwell, assistant professor of history at Eastern Michigan University and author of “At Work in the Atomic City: A Labor and Social History of Oak Ridge, Tennessee.”
12:45 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. Friday, July 15.

“Commemorating the Bomb,” led by Piehler, will focus on how several communities remember and honor their roles in atomic history.
9 a.m. – 11 a.m. Sunday, July 17.

For a complete schedule, please visit the center’s Web site.

Founded in 1984, UT’s Center for the Study of War and Society focuses on U.S. military history, with an emphasis on the human dimension of war. The Center has maintains an ongoing Veterans Oral History Project and World War II archival collection.

The City of Oak Ridge – site for the conference – has done much to honor its role in history through a Secret City Commemorative Walk, exhibits at the American Museum of Science and Energy and special events held throughout the year. For more information, visit http://www.ci.oak-ridge.tn.us/.

To arrange advance interviews with any of the speakers, contact Karen Collins, UT PR office, at (865) 974-5186.